Time Machine

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“Aaron, I’m standing at the Time Portal, which scientists say follows Terminator rules, that is, it’s one way only and you can’t go back. This is in contrast to, say, Back to the Future rules, where back and forth is possible, and, of course, Timerider rules, which are just plain silly.”

A Time Machine is the main prerequisite for Time Travel and all the other fun that goes along with it. Time Machines in fiction can boil down to a few simple types. The type of machine can combine with any of the different ways of experiencing the process of time travel and with the various degress to which the past can be changed.

  • With the Back to the Future-type machine, one simply gets into a vehicle of some sort, and the vehicle is transported to a certain time. When a traveler wants to go back, they use the machine again. This is pretty much the most common type, possibly having to do with the fact that one of the earliest time travel stories (The Time Machine) used this type.
  • A TARDIS-type machine works like a Back to the Future-type one except not only can you program it to go anywhere in time, but also anywhere in space. Basically it’s a vehicle that can go anywhere in 4 dimensions.
  • Terminator-type machines usually involve some sort of big device that projects a traveller back, but does not come with them. Once back in time, the person has no way back to the future besides The Slow Path, unless they can somehow build another device, or if they were able to bring an entire additional time machine with them to leave behind on that trip also. (And this is sometimes precluded by time machines being too big, or the rules not allowing you to take things, or just time machines, with you.) Sometimes these only allow backwards trips to start with.
  • Timecop-type machines are a cross between the Back to the Future-type and the Terminator-type; the traveller is sent back by a machine that does not come with him, but has some sort of way (such as a remote or prearranged time portal) to make a trip back, utilizing the future time machine. Can also being used as a “time scoop” to bring things from the past into the present without going there. Losing the signaler or missing the prearranged portal can require past travelers Writing Back To The Future to get home.
  • A Time Portal provides a direct gateway between two points in space and time is another variation. These can be random, appear and disappear in a predictable way, or be permanent. A pre-existing Time Portal is a way to introduce Time Travel to a series without opening the Pandora’s Box of “why didn’t they just go back in time and stop the bad guy”.
  • A Time Dilation Field is a device that causes time inside a certain area to either go faster or slower. While not a time machine in the classical sense, a field with time set to go slower is a good way to travel forward in time.
    • In Real Life, Time Dilation is an actual effect that occurs when bodies are moving at different relative velocities, or at different depths in a gravity well. This is generally too tame and prosaic for all but the hardest Science Fiction, though.

Having a time machine can (but not always) have the side effect of Reed Richards Is Useless – as a little Fridge Logic one can think of many ways to better use it than visiting your grandparents or paying your bills on time. Time machine types that supposedly move a person through time alone but not space, and which don’t require another machine or portal at the other end, generally completely ignore the problems caused by planetary rotation and the movement of astronomical objects through space. Other types exist, but these are the most common. Compare Interdimensional Travel Device.



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